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    Entries in Irina Krush (9)

    Tuesday
    May202014

    Kamsky, Krush Win The U.S. Championships (Again)

    It wasn't easy, but defending champions Gata Kamsky and Irina Krush both managed to keep their U.S. Championship crowns. For Kamsky, this is his fifth title and fourth in the last five years, while for Krush it is her sixth title and third in a row.

    In the open championship Kamsky had the best tiebreak of the three playoff participants, so he waited for the winner of the bid-Armageddon semi-final match between Alex Lenderman and Varuzhan Akobian. Akobian had the low bid with 29:57, so he was given Black and draw odds against Lenderman, who got White and 45 minutes. The position was around equal when Lenderman made a fatal miscalculation. He sacrificed a pawn, expecting to regain it after 22.Na4 with a positional advantage. He completely missed (or at least underestimated) the weakness of f2, and Akobian quickly finished him off with a direct attack and advanced to the final.

    An Armageddon game at the stage could eventually be reached, but before that could happen the players would have a couple of normal game/25s (with five second increments) first. Akobian had White against Kamsky in the first game, got nothing, and the game was a relatively uneventful draw. In the second game Kamsky played his usual patient chess, essaying the London System and playing for a little queenside pressure. Objectively the position after 17 moves was approximately equal, but Akobian, who was already starting to run low on time, tried to resolve the position immediately with 17...dxc4 18.Nxc4 e5. He was probably better off keeping the position intact, but it's hard for most of us not to just "do something", especially in a high pressure game with time dwindling away. The same goes in spades for Akobian's 21...c5, which was an outright error. After this mistake he was just about lost, and he was soon down a pawn and down to his last seconds on the clock; bad news against anyone, and hopeless news against Kamsky.

    In the women's championship things proceeded quite similarly. Krush, likewise the defending champion, had the best tiebreak scores and could await the winner of the bid-Armageddon game. The winning bid here was very similar to that in the open event, with Tatev Abrahamyan getting Black and draw odds with 29:45 on her clock to Anna Zatonskih's 45 minutes. Here the similarities end, as Abrahamyan was simply unfamiliar with the theory of a major line - not good. 12...Nxc3 is the standard move; instead, her 12...Nc5 was a lemon. When Zatonskih found the brilliant and correct 16.Nxd5!! it looked like it would be game over, and the commentators were already making her the favorite for the final, given how sharp she seemed to be. Abrahamyan's response was a further error, and on move 20 Zatonskih had several winning moves. Instead, she blundered with 20.a4?? - a good idea in general, but not properly timed - and after this Black was not only not dead lost, but better. From there Abrahamyan always kept control, and although both sides committed various inaccuracies Zatonskih never had the chance to be better. In the final position Black was around +50 according to the computer, but with White enjoying some threatening possibilities and a handy perpetual available Abrahamyan took the easy way out and proceeded to the final.

    The first g/25 was a mess, with Krush's position constantly vacillating between clearly winning and much better, with an occasional fleeting moment where Abrahamyan might sneak out with a draw. The last such moment came on move 66, when after a long stretch of very resourceful defense Abrahamyan could have drawn with 68...Rg8+ 69.Rb8 Rb6!! 70.Rxg8+ Kxg8, when any sideways rook move will be met by 71...Ra6+, winning the pawn or repeating. If instead 71.a5, then 71...Rb5 72.a6 Rb6 and the pawn is lost due to zugzwang. Missing this last chance, she lost the game. In game 2 Krush equalized with Black, but 20...Nxd5? was too cynical. Yes, it traded some material, but gave White the opportunity to target Black's weak b- and d-pawns, not to mention the Black king by means of the h7 square and the a2-g8 diagonal. Abrahamyan also enjoyed a huge advantage on the clock, but Krush defended well (except on move 31) and eventually both advantages disappeared. In the end Krush had the better position - and crucially, one that could not be lost - and White eventually acquiesced in the draw. (All the games can be replayed here, with my on-the-fly notes.)

    Congratulations once again to Gata Kamsky and Irina Krush! Their challengers are getting closer and closer, but close, as they rightly say, isn't good enough.

    Sunday
    May182014

    The U.S. Championships: Co-Leaders Heading For Home

    The last couple of rounds have been extremely eventful at the U.S. Championships, and have seen reversals of the reversals! When we left off last time, Varuzhan Akobian had won three in a row to take a half-point lead over Gata Kamsky and a full point lead over early leader Alex Lenderman and several others. In round 8 Akobian won again, Kamsky drew and Lenderman bounced back nicely by beating the very solid Alexander Onischuk, and with the black pieces at that. It got even better for Lenderman in round 9. He won what looked like a fairly drawish position against Daniel Naroditsky while Akobian lost his first game of the event, an all-around nightmare game against Sam Shankland. That left Akobian tied with Lenderman for first with 6/9, with Kamsky half a point behind after he was unable to convert an advantageous position against Mackenzie Molner. Josh Friedel is also in the hunt after his 9th round win over Sergey Erenburg, like Kamsky just half a point behind the leaders.

    So here are the key pairings for rounds 10 and 11:

    Round 10:

    • Molner (3) - Lenderman (6)
    • Akobian (6) - Kamsky (5.5)
    • Friedel (5.5) - Shankland (4.5)

    Round 11:

    • Kamsky - Friedel
    • Lenderman - Akobian

    Perfect!

    In the women's championship Irina Krush's draw in round 7 against Sabina-Francesca Foisor left her a full point behind Anna Zatonskih after the latter's win over Alisa Melekhina. Fortunately they still had their head-to-head match before them in round 8, and Krush gradually managed to convert her significant opening edge into a win. They are thus tied with 6/8 heading into Monday's final round (they have a rest day on Sunday), and Tatev Abrahamyan is only half a point behind in case they fail to win in the last round. Here are the key pairings:

    • Ni (3) - Krush (6)
    • Baginskaite (1.5) - Abrahamyan (5.5)
    • Zatonskih (6) - Nemcova (4.5)

    In case of a two-way tie for first there will be a playoff, and if it's between Krush and Zatonskih it won't be their first. Playoffs, if necessary for either (or both) group(s), will take place on Tuesday.

    Saturday
    Oct192013

    Irina Krush, Grandmaster

    If anything, I thought it would happen sooner, but I'm pleased to learn from the current issue of ChessVibes Training that U.S. Women's Champion Irina Krush achieved her third grandmaster norm at the Baku Open, and as her current FIDE rating has passed the 2500 threshold it means she has earned the title.

    Congratulations!

    Monday
    May132013

    U.S. Championships, Round 9: Krush Wins the Women's Title; Kamsky and Ramirez Need a Playoff

    In the women's championship, Irina Krush came into the last round needing only a draw against Camilla Baginskaite to seal clear first, and that's just what she got. She played it safe, but even within those self-imposed parameters she managed to outplay Baginskaite and win a pawn. That should have been enough to win, and under normal circumstances I suspect she would have closed the deal. Perhaps overly excited about clinching tournament victory, she got a bit careless and allowed her opponent some counterplay. Wisely, she decided to regain her bearings, reset her sights, and offer a draw. It was accepted, and her resulting score of 8/9 won the event (and $18,000), half a point ahead of Anna Zatonskih, who defeated Sabina Foisor in the last round. Tatev Abrahamyan took third with 6.5 points. (Full standings here.)

    In the main event, Gata Kamsky could have clinched clear first with a win over Ray Robson, but although he seemed close to winning Robson managed to keep just enough activity to sneak out with a draw. That left the door open for any one of three players to catch him: Alejandro Ramirez (who faced Larry Christiansen), Alexander Onischuk (facing Kayden Troff) and Conrad Holt (whose opponent was second-seeded Timur Gareev). Two failed, but one succeeded.

    Onischuk had the white pieces and a big rating advantage against Troff, but despite that never came close to winning. The game was drawn, and Troff secured his first GM norm - not bad for anyone, especially for someone who turned 15 less than a week ago!

    Holt had a crazy game with Gareev that should have ended in a draw, but perhaps Holt wanted so desperately to win that he rejected a simple drawing continuation a few moves before the finish. I don't know that it was the last drawing chance, but it was certainly the easiest: 77...Qxd5 78.Bxd5 Nf5+ followed by 79...Nd4 and then capturing the b-pawn. Maybe he missed it, or maybe he hallucinated and forgot that 78...Nf5 was check (if it weren't check, White would have Be4, pinning and winning). Or, as I suggested above, he wanted to go for the win at all costs. Whatever the story, he didn't manage to catch Kamsky.

    Ramirez did, however, to his own surprise and delight, outplaying Christiansen and finishing with a nice attack in an ending with heavy pieces. Ramirez (who incidentally became a GM at 15) will have a playoff match with Kamsky tomorrow/today (Monday) at 12:00 noon St. Louis time, and they will play two 25-minute games. If it's tied after that, then they will have a bid Armageddon game.

    (Full standings here.)

    Saturday
    May112013

    U.S. Championships, Round 8: Kamsky, Krush Lead Entering The Final Round

    Gata Kamsky has been leading the U.S. Championship from the start, but hasn't quite managed to slam the door on his pursuers. Today he had the second seed, Timur Gareev, on the ropes thanks to a pair of sound extra pawns. Gareev shed them going for a desperate counterattack, and it worked well enough for him to save a draw. The key moment came on move 32, when Kamsky was faced with the threat of ...Nf3+. There were four sorts of ways to deal with the threat: move the king, move the rook, defend the f3 square or counterattack (e.g. the rook on c6 or the queen on e7). The third and fourth options were pretty good (e.g. 32.Re3 or 32.Qe7), and the second - moving the rook - was best of all, at least if the move was to d1. Kamsky chose the first option, which lost most of his advantage. It's a natural move, because then one no longer has to worry about ...Nf3+, whether it involves a fork or not. The drawback was that f2 lacked protection, and when Gareev finally managed play 36...Qxf2 the position was a forced draw, as was elegantly demonstrated in the game's conclusion. A good save by Gareev, but he remains a full point behind Kamsky.

    Had there been a winner in the Alejandro Ramirez-Alexander Onischuk contest, that person would have caught Kamsky in first. They drew quickly though (not by design, I'm sure), and Kamsky kept his edge. They remain tied for second (half a point behind), and they were caught there by Conrad Holt. Holt beat Joel Benjamin, taking advantage of his passed c-pawn after Benjamin chose 22...Rf8(?) rather than the necessary 22...Rc8. Holt would have kept some chances after the latter move, but probably not enough to win. After 22...Rf8 the c-pawn survived, and Holt combined its advance with threats to the black king to finish the job.

    Leading Round 9 Pairings:

     

    • Robson (4.5) - Kamsky (6)
    • Ramirez (5.5) - Christiansen (5)
    • Gareev (5) - Holt (5.5)
    • Onischuk (5.5) - Troff (4.5)

     

    The women's championship saw Irina Krush face a major test, and she passed it convincingly. Tatev Abrahamyan was within a point and had the white pieces against Krush. Her big chance! Krush has long been a very well-prepared player though, and today she produced an early novelty in the trendy "Brazilian Taimanov" with 12...Bb7. (12...Ne5 is the usual move, though Black has tried several other moves as well.) Maybe White's best is to take on c6, but Abrahamyan's 13.Bd3 doesn't look ideal. White meets 12...Nxd4 with 13.Qxd4, but that's impossible here, so Krush took on d4, then kicked the bishop with ...e5 (and thanks to the bishop on b7, there's no Nd5 to worry about) and then planted the offside knight on f4. Maybe now Abrahamyan should have played 16.h4, keeping the g-pawn, but maybe she was worried about 16...Bb4. It's funny that in many Sicilians White is frightened, and properly so, of the exchange sac with ...Rxc3 - sometimes even when Black doesn't get a pawn for further compensation. In the Taimanov, however, exchanging lines of the form 1...Bxc3 2.Qxc3 Qxc3 3.bxc3 rarely concern White, even though Black ruins White's pawn structure without sacrificing anything.

    Abrahamyan kept some compensation for a long time, though never quite enough, but then the game took a sharp tactical turn on move 41. Had Krush played the safe 41...Rg7 she would have maintained a large, probably winning advantage, but she thought she could get away with 41...g3. She did get away with it after the natural 44.e7(?); if, however, Abrahamyan played the cool 44.Qd5! she would have equalized the chances: 44...Qxd5 (forced) 45.exd5 g1Q 46.Bxh7+! Kf8 47.Rxg1 Rxg1+ seems to be a draw. Black has too much to worry about with White's e-pawn and possible c5 pawn sacs in the air.

    Missing this one chance, Abrahamyan lost and fell out of the race for first. Anna Zatonskih won her game though (against Iryna Zenyuk), and remains alive in the race for first. Here are the crucial final round pairings:

     

    • Krush (7.5) - Baginskaite (4)
    • Zatonskih (6.5) - Foisor (3.5)

     

    Saturday
    May112013

    U.S. Championships, Round 6 & 7: Kamsky, Krush Continue To Lead

    Gata Kamsky still leads the U.S. Championship, but after three straight draws the field is closing in a bit. In round 6 he made a comfortable draw with Black against third-seed Alexander Onischuk, and was seemingly in control in round 7 against Alejandro Ramirez when he was hit by a brilliant shot: 30...Bh3!! This essentially forced a draw on the spot, and if Kamsky fails to win the title this year this game may loom large, as he could have maintained a serious edge earlier, e.g. with 29.Rff6. But then again, who couldn't miss a move like 30...Bh3, especially from a ways back?

    Onischuk drew in round 7 with Conrad Holt (my dark horse contender for the title) with some difficulty, but a draw's a draw and he is tied with Ramirez, half a point behind Kamsky entering the penultimate round. They will play on board 2 today, with Ramirez getting White.

    About Holt: if there was a prize for the "move of the tournament", he, like Ramirez, would be in the running. In round 6 against Larry Christiansen, there was a remarkable bit of tactical one-upsmanship. Holt's 43...Qc6 looked very strong, threatening both the rook on a8 and 44...Rg4+, picking off the queen. It looked like the move would net the exchange, as 44.Rxf8+ Kxf8 45.Qxf5+ seemed like White's best; White would keep some small chances, but Black would be winning. Instead, Christiansen uncorked the ingenious 44.Ra7! This not only saved the rook, but it saved the queen, too, as 44...Rg4+?? walks into 45.Nxg4 Qxf3 46.Nf6+ Kh8 47.Rh7#!

    Holt admitted to missing that move, but he rose to the occasion and trumped it with the spectacular 44...Bc5!! (which Christiansen missed). This is a subtle double attack: the rook is attacked, of course, and so is White's queen. Black once again threatens ...Rg4+, because after Nxg4 Qxf3 Nf6+ the king can go to f8 rather than h8, and then there is neither mate nor perpetual check. (White could try to set up the perpetual, e.g. with 45.dxc5 Rg4+ 46.Nxg4 Qxf3 47.Nf6+ Kf8 48.Rd7 - a pattern worth remembering if you're not already familiar with it - but Black can break it up with 48...Qc6.)

    Back to the standings: facing Kamsky in round 8 will be the second seed, Timur Gareev, whose performance has been sluggish, at least given what one might expect from his rating. Nevertheless, he has worked his way back into contention, and after defeating Ray Robson in round 7 he has closed to within a point of Kamsky. Unluckily for Gareev, while both he and Kamsky were due for Black this round, the color clash was resolved in Kamsky's favor, and he (Kamsky) will get the white pieces.

    Key Round 8 Pairings:

    • Kamsky (5.5) - Gareev (4.5)
    • Ramirez (5) - Onischuk (5)
    • Holt (4.5) - Benjamin (4.5)

    In the women's championship Krush's run at perfection ended when she was held to a draw by Sabina Foisor in round 6, but she bounced back with a win in round 7. Tatev Abrahamyan closed to within half a point by winning in round 6, but then she drew in round 7 to again fall a full point off the pace. Also a point back is Anna Zatonskih, who has won her last two games. Round 8 is crucial, as Abrahamyan has White against Krush. (The women's event is a round-robin, as opposed to the Swiss system in the "men's" event.)

    Key Round 8 Pairings:

    • Abrahamyan (5.5) - Krush (6.5)
    • Zenyuk - Zatonskih (5.5)

    Tuesday
    May072013

    U.S. Championship: Kamsky Draws (But Still Leads); Krush Still Perfect

    Looks like the "Fischer prize" to be awarded to any player who manages to achieve a perfect score in the U.S. Championship will go unclaimed another year, as the last player with a perfect score, Gata Kamsky, was held to a draw in round 5 by Joel Benjamin. Kamsky still leads, but Alexander Onischuk is nipping at his heels, half a point behind. They play in round 6, and Onischuk will have White. On board two Benjamin has White against Alejandro Ramirez, who defeated Sam Shankland to reach 3.5 points, the same score Benjamin has. Four others have 3 points, and down it goes from there.

    In the women's championship Irina Krush won again (no Fischer prize for them, as far as I know), defeating the also perfect - in the opposite direction - Sarah Chiang. (Chiang is a first-timer and just 15, so this is a bit of a baptism by fire for her. On the other hand, while she's the lowest-rated player in the field, she's not so much lower-rated that she should go through the tournament without scoring. So let's hope she can stay mentally tough and pick up some points.) Krush is 5-0, now a point ahead of Tatev Abrahamyan, who drew with Anna Zatonskih (who now has 3.5). Krush defeated Zatonskih in round 3, and will play Abrahamyan (with Black) in round 8.

    Tuesday
    May072013

    U.S. Championships Update: Kamsky, Krush Lead Their Divisions with 4-0 Scores

    Gata Kamsky may not be showing his best form at the U.S. Championship, but as a big rating favorite and an enormously experienced player, he has so far overcome his fatigue from the Grand Prix in Zug to fend off challenges from Larry Christiansen and one of my dark horse contenders, Conrad Holt, to emerged unscathed so with a 4-0 score. His closest contenders at the moment are a point behind: Joel Benjamin, whom he will face in round 5; third-seeded Alexander Onischuk, and Christiansen; the latter two will play in round 5.

    In round 3 many of the underdogs took a step back while the favorites have reasserted themselves, but in round 4 the youngsters and rookies showed that they are still very much in the fight. And meanwhile, second-seeded Timur Gareev and perennial contender Yuri Shulman are both still languishing at 50%. (Full round 5 pairings and scores can be seen here.)

    Meanwhile, Irina Krush is having her way in the Women's Championship, having defeated her constant rival Anna Zatonskih in a hard battle in round 3 (and with the black pieces, no less). She followed it up with a victory over another former U.S. Women's Champion, Anjelina Belakovskaia, and sits very comfortably at 4-0. Nevertheless, competition remains. Tatev Abrahamyan also entered round 3 with a 2-0 score, and although she lost half a point in round 3 a win in round 4 has her very much in contention with 3.5 points. She's in for a big test in round 5 with Black against Zatonskih, and if she's still in contention by round 8 she'll have the white pieces against Krush. No one else has more than two points, so for now it looks like a three-horse race, which may drop to a two-horse race after this next round concludes.

    Sunday
    May202012

    Krush Wins Women's Title in a Ghoulish Tiebreak

    Anna Zatonskih and Irina Krush were tied at the end of the U.S. Women's Championship round-robin, so today they played a tiebreaker. It would go to an Armageddon game if necessary, but first they played a pair of G/25 (plus 5 second increments per move) rapid games. In the first, Zatonskih got nothing with White, pressed anyway, and lost. In the rematch, however, she played very well and obtained a winning attack. To break the attack, Krush offered an exchange, but Zatonskih went for more. Krush's reply was a blunder, and with a simple two-mover her opponent would win a rook, equalize the scores, and go on to the Armageddon game.

    Instead, after thinking for three minutes, Zatonskih missed it. By this point Krush had seen it and could be seen exhaling in relief, though even after this her position was awful. Zatonskih didn't handle the technical task to perfection, but was slowly but surely getting the job done. And then...she simply hung a rook. Maybe it was the sort of OTB equivalent of "pre-move": she expected that Krush was going to do something else, and simply carried out her intended move anyway, not noticing before reflexively executing what was now a blunder.

    A horrific reminder, in case anyone needed it, that errare humanum est.